Interview with Aidan Baker and Dorian Williamson of Adoran


Interview by Jason Guest

(Ed: Jason’s review of Adoran’s album is here)

Jason: Adoran’s approach to bass and drums as instruments is very different. Generally speaking, bass and drums are regarded as the property of the rhythm section, their purpose – conceptually speaking – subservient to the guitars and vocals. How do you two view your instruments and the possibilities they afford?

Aidan Baker: I think we both come from musical backgrounds that eschew traditional instrumentation and the idea that one particular instrument is supposed to assume one specific role in a band. The whole idea of creative musical expression is about freedom and it doesn’t matter what instrument one plays—an instrument is just a tool to produce sound.

Dorian Williamson: Yeah the instrument chosen is really just the means to an end. My approach to the bass has always been more melodic and soundscape based, as opposed to a more traditional rhythmic one.

Jason: What was it that drew you two together to form Adoran and write music together?

Adoran 2013
Aidan Baker and Dorian Williamson

Aidan Baker: We were both played in different in the early 2000s in Toronto and after a few conversations discovered we had similar tastes that went beyond post-rock—noise and drone and ambient—and decided to jam together to explore some of those heavier, noisier sounds that we weren’t able to explore so readily in other group settings.

Dorian Williamson: Our separate bands, Aidan’s Nadja and Arc, and my old band Holoscene played a few shows together, and I knew right away I’d found a kindred spirit to do some exploring with.

Jason: Who would you say are Adoran’s main influences? And how much of an impact do they have on the writing of your material?

Aidan Baker: Some shared influences: Swans, Godflesh, Halo, OM, Corrupted, Khanate. They definitely have a sonic impact on the kinds of atmospheres we are attempting to create.

Dorian Williamson: Yeah early Swans and Godflesh are definitely an influence. The way those bands could create a totally oppressive and brutally cathartic environment has informedy the sound of Adoran, although we’re much more abstract and improvised.

Jason: What was it that you wanted to achieve with the album?

Aidan Baker: Beyond the idea of creating an immersive sonic landscape, I don’t think we had any particular goal we wanted to achieve with this album. We just went into the studio and this is what happened.

Dorian Williamson: Yeah it was never that intellectualized, all very primal and direct. With this kind of thing if you overthink it too much, the magic vanishes.

Jason: Is there a concept behind the album? And how did this concept affect the writing of the album? Did the concept affect how you approached writing the music?

Aidan Baker: Not particularly, no. And we don’t write songs in the traditional sense. We simply went into the studio, recorded for a few hours and then took the best parts of what we captured to make the album. But by and large, what is on the album we played as is, spontaneous, entirely improvisational.

Dorian Williamson: Yeah it’s more like finding an atmosphere that’s working and then building it up in a natural way and letting it kind of take you over, almost in a trance like state.

Jason: You’ve obviously spent a lot of time working on the album. Is it all new material or is their stuff on there from the 2010 EP or even before then?

Aidan Baker: This is all new material. More time was spent outside of the studio working independently on mixing, editing, and mastering the music to get the best possible sounds out of the raw material we laid down in the studio. The material we recorded for the 2012 EP was likewise completely improvisational, but as we recorded it in a different studio and setting, the sound is quite different and the songs are a little less heavy and oppressive and more spacey sounding…

Jason: How have the tracks evolved since they were started?

Aidan Baker: Most of what you hear on the album is as we captured it in the studio. The majority of the edits in the raw material were in the transitions and/or excising sections that we felt didn’t work.

Dorian Williamson: It’s a pretty accurate document of what was happening in the studio at that time. There aren’t any overdubs. I think Aidan and I are on the same page in terms of what we want Adoran to be, which is basically a live immersive experience. It’s a bit like we’ve created these very minimalist parameters from within which we can explore in a much different, almost more free and liberated way.

Jason: Writing tracks that are around a half hour is a challenge for any band, particularly for those with a, shall we say, “conventional” line-up (I’m thinking of ‘Echoes’ and ‘Shine on You Crazy Diamond’ by Pink Floyd, or ‘Supper’s Ready’ by Genesis). How do you approach that challenge with just two instruments?

Aidan Baker: We don’t really think about composition in the traditional or conventional sense—rather than thinking abouts riffs or chords or progressions, we think about sonic environments and atmospheres, about the creation of small and independent, conceivably unrelated, sounds that in the process of accruing create something more than those independent sounds.

Jason: I’m intrigued by the bass and drums setup, how you make it work so well, sustain it for the duration that you do, and challenge the conventions of both instruments. How does Adoran write? Do you jam ideas out? Do you discuss and plan what you want of each track? And do you also figure out what you both will do at certain intervals? 

Aidan Baker: Beyond very simple directives—like let’s do something heavy or let’s do something minimal—we try to keep everything on a non-verbal, instinctual level and the simple process of playing determines the outcome. In terms of individuals, I think we both approach our instruments as tools, as I mentioned above, objects that can create sound in any possible way and not necessarily in a conventional, expected way that can be just as surprising to us, playing, as it is to our listeners listening.

Jason: Clearly you both work together to achieve the final goal, but does the burden of providing more of the melodic and sonic textures through effects and the like fall on Dorian’s shoulders than Aidan’s?

Aidan Baker: I don’t think drums are entirely a-melodic, but yes, I suppose most of the melodies come from Dorian.

Dorian Williamson: I actually think the drums in Adoran are quite melodic. Often when we play, the drum parts will inspire me to accompany with a melody as well as a rhythm. Its all very synergistic, the two of us functioning as one and letting it all breathe and take in its own life.

Jason: Could you give us a rundown of the equipment that you both use?

Aidan Baker: I have a 3 piece drum set—kick, snare, floor tom—plus hi-hat, ride, some percussion, and a couple crash cymbals, including a few broken ones I use for more noisy or ‘corrupted’ sounds.

Dorian Williamson: I have a heavily modified Fender Precision Bass and a very early Ampeg SVT/810 cabinet. Effects wise, Georg from Sigur Ros turned me on to the Octabass made by EBS, a Swedish company. I use it for all the sub-bass tones, or general ‘thickening’. It tracks amazingly well, even in the lower registers. Beyond that, I use the Blue Beard bass distortion, EHX Bass micro synth and a couple of delays.

Adoran 2013Jason: Can you tell us about the artwork for the album? How does it relate to the music?

Aidan Baker: Well, there’s the literal connection between the image and the title “The Dead Aviator”…and the implication that some kind of ‘death machine’ was responsible for the bird’s death… But that’s kind of me just reaching. Quite simply, we liked the image.

Dorian Williamson: for me it’s such a tragic image, but also very beautiful in a melancholic way.

Jason: Who’s the artist? Why did you choose to work with him/her? And how much direction did you give him/her in its creation?

Aidan Baker: The photo was taken by my partner, Leah Buckareff, and I was responsible for the layout. The image was originally in colour, but I made it black and white to give the cover a more stark atmosphere.

Jason: Bands are finding it increasingly difficult to survive, particularly in an age where sales are down because of illegal downloading and bands are releasing limited digipacks, vinyl editions and packages in an effort to counter this. How does a band such as Adoran – a very unconventional band – survive in such an era?

Aidan Baker: Tenuously…but as the project has always been fairly tenuous, considering we both have other projects we play with.

Dorian Williamson: One of the great things about the Internet and streaming is that people who have very esoteric interests can find artists that previously would have been very hard to locate let alone buy a product from.

Jason: What does the future hold for Adoran? Is there more music in the pipeline?

Aidan Baker: Yes, we recorded a follow up album in the spring of this year which Consouling will be releasing late this year or early next. We are still working on a final mix of the material, but this album is a bit lighter and spacious than our self-titled debut. As we live on different continents, the project is fairy sporadic and we try to do things when we happen to be in the same city at the same time. Our 2010 EP “Egregore” still hasn’t been released (label limbo), but hopefully will see the light of day one of these years…

Jason: Are you touring in support of the album? And will we be seeing you in the UK any time soon?

Aidan Baker: We have been discussing touring but nothing definite as yet…hopefully something will come together!

Dorian Williamson: yeah I’d love to bring this to the stage sometime as well.

Jason: Thanks for taking time out for this interview.